Sheriff Jay Koon

Walk into any store these days and you’ll see the aisles filled with holiday cheer, shopping season is now in full-swing.

Big crowds and extended store hours create distractions that can make you a prime target for thieves looking to steal your money, your merchandise or even your identity. It’s important to stay alert to protect yourself, your valuables and your personal information.

Don’t let the busyness of the holiday season keep you from remembering these safety tips:

  • A single shopper is the best target for theft. Shop with a friend or relative if you can. Avoid late-night shopping trips.
  • Keep cash in your front pocket rather than in a purse or wallet. This makes it much more difficult for a pick-pocket to remove. Carry car keys in a pants or jacket pocket. If your purse is stolen, you’ll still be able to drive home. And never leave personal items in your shopping cart unattended.
  • If you feel uneasy returning to your vehicle alone, find a security guard and ask them to walk you to your car.
  • Park in well-lit areas. Make sure vehicles are locked and shopping bags are out of sight. Never leave gifts in a vehicle overnight.
  • If you’re shopping with children, discuss a safety plan and meeting location with them in case you get separated.
  • When shopping online, buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites–the cards might be counterfeit or might have been obtained fraudulently.
  • Inspect gift cards before you buy them. Make sure none of the protective stickers have been removed. See if the codes on the back of the card have been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
  • If you’re expecting package deliveries to your home while away, arrange for someone to pick them up or for the courier to place them in inconspicuous areas like behind a gate or in the bushes.

To report any suspicious activity in or around a store, call 911. To report fraudulent financial activity, contact the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department at 803-785-2400 or Crimestoppers at 888-CRIME-SC.